Yesterday, I posted a quote that included the phrase "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest".
When I said this to my stepson, he was clueless as to the story behind that quote, so maybe I should explain some history:
Henry II was feuding with Bishop Becket about church/state authority and got into a tizzy: some of the knights who heard his tantrum decided to act on his desires, and after the deed was done, it backfired.
The people saw the bishop as a martyr, and the king had to finally do public penance to show his repentance.
ths story has been told many times: in the film Becket and in the play Murder in the cathedral.
but as the FT article book review discusses, the story is not just about two friends who vied for power, but about a church state issue that is still important today: Does the government have the right to order around the church, or does church law overrule th government?
the most obvious link is that tipping point was if the church or the state should prosecute priests who were accused of sexual abuse, but it goes past this to ask if churches can refuse to obey the law on many levels.
Can churches hide migrants? Can churches openly preach against pro abortion candidates in th pulpit without losing their tax exemption? Can church schools must allow openly practicing homosexual to teach their children, and if Catholic hospitals and nursing homes will be ordered to kill patients under legal euthanasia laws, or face loss of being reimbursed by government health insurance for their services.
To us, it sounds like a "no brainer" to say Becket was wrong to defend a rapist priest, because we see how bishops defended pedophile priests by giving them psychiatric treatment not jail.
But one reason John Paul II underestimated the problem was because a common trick by communist governments was to remove "troublesome priests" by such accusations: the result would be his reputation was destroyed and you could jail him, whereas outright killing could make the guy a martyr. Martyrs can cause more trouble dead than alive, as Marcos found out in the Philippines.
but Henry's insistence that government had the highest power also essentially meant government law outranked church law, essentially telling the church to grant to Caesar the things that are God's...
This tension has many parallels in the modern world, from the bishops defending the poor in South America to the bishops in Mexico and the US defending the rights of migrants seeking a new life.
But this lesson, that the church should be independent voice of conscience, is pushed by Pope Francis when it comes to refugees in Europe, but it seems to be lost when it comes to China.
This is an ongoing problem, and the most obvious version is actually about Pope Francis making nice with China. Will he allow that government to appoint the bishops of the church, and merge the government church with the underground church? And if so, it would mean a church that would not oppose forced abortion and euthanasia and other human rights abuses in that country? Will the priests be allowed to break the seal of confession to report on rebellious penitents? ...
In contrast, John Paul II's struggle to build a church in Nowa Huta in communist Poland was the first step in insisting that communism was not god, but that human rights and god's law could take down the inhumane system that was communism.
NYTimes articl from 1983
There would be no churches, it was decreed. But the workers brought in to raise the town from the wheat fields on the edge of the ancient fortress city of Cracow, and the ones who stoke the furnaces and roll the steel, are just as stubbornly devoted to the Roman Catholic church as the rest of Poland. They struggled with the authorities for more than 20 years, once fighting the police in the streets for three days when a cross they had put up was taken down, until they had their church.
Today Pope John Paul II, who as Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, Archbishop of Cracow, led much of the battle to build that church, consecrated the sixth parish church here. Three more churches are under construction. In the city's main square is an icon of Communism, a large statue of Lenin the way he is always depicted, an overcoat thrown across his shoulders.
the workers lost in 1953, they lost in 1983, but they won in 1989...
Stalin once snidely remarked: how many divisions does the Pope have? It took 17 years, but that question was answered when the people, often led by Catholic or Orthodox priests, and almost without blood, overcame his system of terror.